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Seize, Hold Fast to and Retain Hope

Famous poet Robert Frost published the poem Carpe Diem in 1938. Carpe diem is a Latin aphorism taken from book 1 of the Roman poet Horace’s work Odes. When translated into English, Carpe Diem refers to “seize the day”. To seize involves to make the most of this present time and give little thought to the future. This is the sense of urgency the author of Hebrews is attempting to communicate.

So let us seize and hold fast and retain without wavering the [c]hope we cherish and confess and our acknowledgement of it, for He Who promised is reliable (sure) and faithful to His word, Hebrews 10:23.

Holding fast means to tightly secure something that is deemed important and valuable. This process focuses on continuing to believe in and adhere to an idea or principle. In the passage above, hope is the glue meant to cement the faith of modern day Christians. Like a cherished teddy bear that a small child clings to each night in bed, hope is what you wrap your arms around in times of need.

Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, [a]the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses]. For by [faith—[b]trust and holy fervor born of faith] the men of old had divine testimony borne to them and obtained a good report, Hebrews 11:1-2.

In football games, defensive players attempt to force, intercept, punch and remove the ball from the individual who has it. To retain possession, running backs, receivers and quarterbacks do everything in their power to avoid turning the football over. This is the message Hebrews is trying to convey by seizing, holding fast to and retaining hope. As life continues to fly by, may faith and hope be secured despite what the forces of this world may do to try to change your mind, Ephesians 6:12.

by Jay Mankus

A Biblical Explantion for Why Faith Disappears

According to Colossians 4:14 and Philemon 1:24, a man named Demas appears to have been involved with Paul’s earthly ministry.  Although the exact role served by this man is unclear, Demas devoted a portion of his life to serving God.  Apparently, Demas’ passion for the mission field faded away, replaced by a love for pleasures of this world.  Based upon the passage below, Demas may have been one of Paul’s converts from Thessalonica, returning home to pursue secular aspirations.

Make every effort to come to me soon; 10 for Demas, having loved [the pleasures of] this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia, 2 Timothy 4:9-10.

When I first read this passage, I began to wonder why spiritual faith disappears.  To a certain extent, our culture is partially responsible, giving modern Christians who leave ministry positions permission to finally get paid a decent wage.  My first year as a High School Bible teacher I made a salary of $19,000.  A decade later, my final year of teaching earned me just over $30K, which included two coaching positions.  You can’t put a price on the spiritual benefits of serving God, but when you are living just above the poverty line, it’s no wonder that more and more individuals leave churches to start a professional career.

But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who [are not financially ethical and] crave to get rich [with a compulsive, greedy longing for wealth] fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction [leading to personal misery]. 10 For the love of money [that is, the greedy desire for it and the willingness to gain it unethically] is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves [through and through] with many sorrows, 1 Timothy 6:8-10.

In the passage above, Paul unveils the mindset which sets the stage for faith to disappear.  Perhaps, Paul is referring to Demas or others believers Paul met while on the mission field.  Paul suggests that money can trap those who once trusted in the Lord for daily bread to be led astray by a craving for more.  As people develop a love for money, faith is often left behind.  The apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church in Rome, Romans 8:5-8, eluding to two mindsets, one that focuses on God and the other on worldly desires.  Whenever individuals taste forbidden fruit, reaching beyond the line where the grass appears greener sets the stage for faith to disappear.  Yet, before your mind becomes hostile to God, think twice before you act so you don’t follow in the footsteps of Demas.

by Jay Mankus

According to Colossians 4:14 and Philemon 1:24, Demas assisted the apostle Paul in some capacity during his missionary journeys. While Demas isn’t considered a dear friend like Luke, this man is referred to as a fellow worker in fulfilling the great commission, Acts 1:8. Yet, as some point Demas had second thoughts of devoting his life to the ministry.

Make every effort to come to me soon; 10 for Demas, having loved [the pleasures of] this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very helpful to me for the ministry, 2 Timothy 4:9-11.

Paul shares this disappointing news in a letter to a teenage pastor. Demas wasn’t the first Christian to abandon Paul on the mission field. Luke describes how Barnabas’ cousin, John Mark departed in Acts 15:38. Biblical scholars blame Mark’s decision on an illness or simply becoming homesick. Whenever believers leave the church to pursue secular aspirations, levels of commitment, faith and maturity are exposed.

But godliness actually is a source of great gain when accompanied by contentment [that contentment which comes from a sense of inner confidence based on the sufficiency of God]. For we have brought nothing into the world, so [it is clear that] we cannot take anything out of it, either. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content, 1 Timothy 6:6-8.

The difference between the first century and modern churches is the sense of urgency that existed. Many first century leaders lived their lives as if Jesus was going to return tomorrow. This mentality drove the apostle Paul to seize every opportunity to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah, offering the promise of eternal life to all who would listen, 1 John 5:13. While some modern congregations possess a similar mindset, apathy has caused my faith to slowly disappear.

But those who [are not financially ethical and] crave to get rich [with a compulsive, greedy longing for wealth] fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction [leading to personal misery]. 10 For the love of money [that is, the greedy desire for it and the willingness to gain it unethically] is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves [through and through] with many sorrows, 1 Timothy 6:9-10.

After spending fifteen years in churches, ten as a Bible teacher and five serving in local youth groups, I deserted the ministry. Living just above the poverty line for a decade was enough for me to pursue temporary pleasures as the apostle Paul suggests. The only trace of my remaining faith exists in this blog. While I am not proud of the person that I have become by living outside of the church, it is what it is for now. My only prayer is that I strive to become a modern day tentmaker, earning enough money to provide for my family while serving the Lord in some other capacity going forward.

by Jay Mankus

Faster Faster Won’t You Make It Better Now

Built into the DNA of children is a natural inclination to seek comfort from mothers.  Whether its an accident, fall or scrape, there is something soothing about receiving a hug, kiss or touch from mom.  When I lived in New Jersey, my mother was an EMT.  Perhaps, it was a premonition that I was an accident waiting to happen.  Anyway, when I broke my leg in two places jumping off an above ground pool, did a face plant into the asphalt while riding my bike and nearly lost my finger after it was slammed into a car door I cried out, “faster faster won’t you make it better now?”

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths, Proverbs 3:5-6.

From a spiritual perspective, adults and child alike apply this same concept to prayer.  However, instead of crying out to moms’, individuals are seeking immediate help from their heavenly Father.  In cases of death, illness or sudden trauma, God is the last resort, a life line hoping to turn around a dire situation.  While answers from the Lord vary, desperate times push souls to a sense of urgency.  Depending upon the age, dilemma or energy within each prayer lifted up, everyone is searching for a quick resolution with a happy ending.

And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the LORD our God and obey him,” Joshua 24:24.

In the song Faster Faster on Esterlyn Lamps debut album, the lyrics appear to be geared toward a counselor or friend.  In the chorus, an individual who has made poor choices in life cries out at the tops of their lungs, “faster faster won’t you make it better?”  Whether this plea applies to a pastor, teacher or youth pastor, anyone who makes foolish decisions wants to escape the consequences.  Unfortunately, reality paints another picture, often with grime results.  Therefore, don’t wait until something bad happens to get right with God.  Rather, like Joshua in the Old Testament, make your decision today to serve and follow the Lord.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Out of Touch; Nearly Out of Time

Late Night Shows and comedy segments often do a Man on the Street interview to get a laugh.  If the topic was the meaning of Memorial Day, young kids would likely reply with selfish comments.   “A three day weekend, time off school, the first day of summer”.  Unfortunately, remembering those who have died while serving the United States has become out of state out of mind.

If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth, 1 John 1:6.

The concept of the soul was inspiration for Hall and Oates 1985 song Out of Touch.  Afraid individuals would lose their soul, John Oates etched this chorus: You’re out of touch I’m out of time But I’m out of my head When you’re not around.  This sense of urgency is missing from a generation spoiled by the freedom in America.  As more and more veterans pass away annually, their time has come to an end.

Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did, 1 John 2:6.

Spiritually speaking, the church is out of touch and nearly out of time to sway a country leaning to the left.  As hearts and minds embrace secular humanism, who will stand up, blaze a new trail and ignite souls to pursue Christ.  Perhaps, most are still out of touch, distracted by a world gone wild.  Nearly out of time, who will come forth to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Desperation: A Recipe for Restoration

In the 1971, Carly Simon released Anticipation, featuring the song that inspired this album.  Eight years later, Heinz Ketchup developed the slogan, “Anticipation is making me wait,” by mixing Carly Simon’s song with images of ketchup slowly flowing out of a bottle.  During an interview on National Public Radio, also known as NPR, Carly Simon shared the meaning of Anticipation.  While waiting for Cat Stevens to pick her up on their first date, the lyrics to this song were formed and the rest is history.

Although ketchup and God don’t have any thing in common, Heinz’ marketing campaign and Carly Simon’s song illustrate how the Lord works behind the scenes.  God allows individuals to experience desperation, causing hearts to develop a sense of urgency.  As one hungers for something more in life like the prodigal son in Luke 15:16-20, a recipe for restoration is generated.  Thus, despite any anguish, brokenness and heartache people have to endure, the Lord uses desperation to lead hurting souls beside still waters, Psalm 23:1-6.

Everyone understands how painful waiting can be.  Whether you’re at the hospital anticipating news from a doctor regarding life or death, impatiently waiting for God to answer your prayers or searching for clues to understand the trial you are currently undergoing, each scenario breeds desperation.  Like Nicodemus, seeking out Jesus at night in John 3:1, sometimes you have to humble yourself, realize you’re not in control and kneel before God, Luke 7:37-38.  May any lukewarm spirit holding you down be expelled as God uses desperation as a recipe for restoration.

by Jay Mankus

 

When You’re Rejected by God

Rejections come in various forms like having a credit card declined, being dismissed by an employer or being turned down for a date.  However, whenever prayers go unanswered, problems continue to mount or nothing ever seems to go right, individuals feel rejected by God.  Confused by God’s lack of action and silence, wounded souls struggle to make sense of their current dilemma.

Following their banishment from the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:23, the first family resembled a soap opera more than God’s well pleased creation.  To make matters worse, a sibling rivalry commenced in Genesis 4:3-5.  When big bigger, Cain, had his offering rejected by God, resentment and jealousy flowed toward his younger brother Abel.  As disappointment gave birth to depression, a wicked scheme tempted the mind of Cain.  It’s one thing to be honest with God, yet revenge led Cain to overreact, ending the life of his little brother.

Although the Lord does predestine certain leaders to fulfill the great commission, there are clear indications why God rejected Cain and accepted Abel’s offering.

1) God honors those who give their best, Matthew 5:48.  Genesis 4:3 suggests there was no sense of urgency within Cain to give the Lord his first fruits.  Cain waited until his belly was full and his family had enough food to eat before he got around to it.  Foregoing Matthew 6:33, Cain appeared to trust in his own ability and not God.  Meanwhile, Abel gave to the Lord his first and most precious sheep, believing God would replace these in the near future, Genesis 4:4.

2) Offer your body as a living sacrifice, Romans 12:1.  If everything that is good comes from above, James 1:16-17, when people honor God with their bodies, you get the Lord’s attention like Abel.  On the other hand, its easy to become lukewarm about things in life, picking and choosing when its convenient to serve God.  I guess you can say, Cain’s heart wasn’t into his offering.  Therefore, when you fall into this habit or pattern, its essential that you receive a spiritual heart transplant, Ezekiel 36:26.

3)Be your brother’s keeper by holding others accountable, James 5:19-20.  Cain tried to avoid any responsibility for his brother’s death.  Whether you’re the oldest or the youngest, each believer should set the example for others to follow, 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12.  Whenever someone does stray off course, its vital to steer wandering souls back toward the narrow path, Matthew 7:13-14.  Thus, the next time you feel rejected by God, reflect upon these 3 indicators so that you won’t regret or overreact to the hand you have been dealt like Cain.

by Jay Mankus

 

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